Newly-appointed Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that the "IDF will stay the 'army of the people,'" and that he "will do everything to stop [it] from becoming an army of mercenaries," as he met with members of the IDF's General Staff Forum headed by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
At the meeting, Bennett added that "the only authority in the IDF is its commanders."
Bennett thanked the soldiers for "so many years, during which all those sitting here have contributed to the most important thing – which is [securing] the existence of the Jewish state and the Jewish people in the Land of Israel.
"The very heart of Israel's existence is the unity, and its very breath are the arguments – we are an argumentative people and it is good that it is so," he said. "It is good, in my opinion, that we have the other side. I'm happy that there are ultra-Orthodox [people] here, religious ones, secular ones, right-wing [people] and left-wing."
"I would not have wanted a different situation as long as the essence of the argument is what's good for Israel."
"We will not get a fourth chance," Bennett said, referencing past Jewish sovereignty. "We had a Jewish state in this land that existed as a united, sovereign country for 80 years during the First Temple period, and on its 81 year, due to egotism and tribalism, we fell apart." He proceeded to list the failed attempts to establish a Jewish kingdom that would last longer than a century.
He later added that "the common denominator of everyone sitting here is our will to go through this decade, the centuries and the millennia, and live here for the eternity of Israel."
The defense minister said that he "trusts the chief of staff, the IDF staff itself, and IDF commanders completely," adding that he believes that the military's "level is very high."
"The only way for our enemies to defeat us is to make us feel like we do not deserve to live in this land, lose the faith in the righteousness of our way," he said. "Chief of Staff, Sir, I know that what you are rooting [in IDF soldiers] is very deep."
"The IDF's mission is to [secure] the eternal existence of the Jewish state in Israel, alongside basing our values and traditions in the Israeli Defense Forces," he said.
"The IDF as the 'army of the people' is a basic value," Bennett said. "We will do everything to keep the IDF that way and not, God forbid, an army of mercenaries."
"The only authority in the IDF is the commanders and nobody else. There is no alternative chain of command," he said.
Kochavi congratulated Bennett for being appointed defense minister and wished him luck in the position. He also said that the "challenges [of these days] speak for themselves: sometimes on the ground, and mostly under the surface."
He added that the IDF staff commanders are "professionals of the highest quality with extensive operative experience and I trust them completely, like all IDF commanders."